Meeting at the Smolny Institute, Dec. 31, 1917

An episode from a TV presentation
of the film "Luottamus" (Confidence).
Produced by Fennada-Film & Lenfilm 1976.
Lenin meets the delegation of the
Finnish government in Smolny.
Lenin - Kirill Lavrov: "Nu, kak? Vy
udovletvoreny?" (Well, are you now
Svinhufvud - Vilho Siivola:
"Ochen' dazhe dovol'ny." (Very, very
The events in the film do not
precisely coincide with Räikkönen's
narrative. (AVI 15 s)

An excerpt from the 1935 biography of the President of
Finland P.E. Svinhufvud by Erkki Räikkönen.
Abridged and edited by Tauno Pöyry for the
magazine Suomen Vapaussota Nr. 4/1940.

After trying, without any result, to meet the Soviet rulers on Dec. 30, 1917 - that day was Sunday - the delegation succeeded on the next day in delivering the letter to Lenin's secretary. At 9 o'clock P.M. they left for Smolny to receive the resolution: "We waited there for two to three hours in a large vestibule and sat on a table corner", relates Svinhufvud, "we had our furcoats on and caps in hands, because we did not want to venture leaving them unguarded somewhere. Despite the late hours everything was busy at Smolny. Visitors came and went, typists were running around in the corridors, even small children crawled on floors. Enckell tried many times push on the Bureau Chief of the Soviet Government Bonch-Bruevich, but nothing helped. We could only see, relates Enckell, how the People's Commissars were sitting in a room amidst a thick cloud of cigarette smoke and were probably deliberating also on our cause.

Even though we had our furcoats on, we began to feel cold in the vestibule. Finally, almost at midnight, Bonch-Bruevich brought the resolution of the Commissariat."

The resolution's wording was:


"We stood up one after another and with great pleasure signed the recognition of Finland's independence", writes I. Steinberg, the Commissar for Justice in Lenin's Cabinet, in his memoirs. "We were aware that the present hero of Finland Svinhufvud, who once was exiled by the Tsar, was our public political enemy and that in future he would spare no one of us. But if we set the Finnish people free from Russian oppression, there will be one historical injustice less in the world."

Even though the resolution only stated that the recognition of independence of Finland will be proposed, in reality it meant a full recognition, because the endorsement of the Executive Committee would only be a formal one.

Thus Finland was at the last hour of the year's last day granted an official certificate of partition from Russia.

After handing over this official recognition of independence to the delegation Bonch-Bruevich were just about saying good-bye and leaving for his duties. Enckell, however, made a comment:
- As we have the chairman of the Finnish government here with us, would it be appropriate, that he were given the opportunity to meet Lenin in person and to express to him the gratitude of the Finnish people for the recognition of independence just granted to us.

Bonch-Bruevich went now back to the Commissars' room and told them that Svinhufvud is waiting in the vestibule and wants to thank Lenin. This prompted a good deal of perturbation. Lenin shrugged his shoulders, gave an embarrassed laugh and declined.

- What I am to say to these bourgeois people!

It was then suggested that Trotski should go and shake hands with the visitors but even he determinedly refused. Finally it was suggested that Steinberg, the Commissar for Justice, should accept the request.

- What could I say to them, he asked and continued:

- The only thing I could do is to use the powers of my office and take them into custody!

Trotski laughed and made a sly comment:

- That would be just what you would like to do!

Now Bonch-Bruevich lost his temper. He put an end to joking and renewed the request to Lenin to go out and meet the Finns. In a worn suit and drooping the head Lenin followed Bonch-Bruevich, while in the meeting-room laughing and joking still went on.

"Lenin came and held out his hand and we introduced him to Svinhufvud", Enckell relates about this historical meeting and continues, that "Lenin cordially pressed Svinhufvud's hand".

- Are you satisfied now, asked Lenin.

- Extremely satisfied, replied Svinhufvud.

"He asked in Russian and I replied in Russian", relates Svinhufvud adding that "we only expressed our simple thanks for the independence".

The Finns left now. Svinhufvud, Enckell and Idman headed hastily to the Office of the Ministerial State Secretary of Finland. A typewritten copy of the recognition of independence was promptly made there. After this the delegation left for the railway station and from there to Finland by train.

A few days later the Russian Central Executive Committee ratified the recognition of the independence of Finland which thus made the situation final in Russia.
Translation by Pauli Kruhse.

The delegation consisted of:
Svinhufvud Enckell idman
Chairman of the Senate
of Finland Pehr
Evind Svinhufvud
President of Finland:
Carl Enckell,
State Secretary
of Finland
in Petrograd
Doctor of Law
Gustaf Idman
This episode is a direct excerpt from the magazine article. Previous preliminary contacts and the incident in which the Commissars refused to accept Finnish Government's first appeal, addressed to the Russian Government instead of the Soviet of People's Commissars, are not related here.

This episode is also told in the book by Erkki Räikkönen, "Svinhufvud, the builder of Finland". London, 1938.

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Original documents in Russian.
The translations of the original documents.